On Friday afternoon, the Second Court of Appeals released a meticulously researched and well-reasoned 148-page opinion protecting Baby Tinslee Lewis and decimating the deadly 10-Day Rule. This law currently threatens her life by allowing the hospital to pull the plug against her mother’s will with only 10 days’ notice. The court held that both the mother and child pleaded and put on evidence of a valid civil rights case in which the hospital deprived them of the constitutionally protected Right to Life. The Second Court of Appeals is the intermediate court for 12 North Texas counties.
While this decision is not yet the final legal outcome of Trinity Lewis’s fight for her daughter’s life, this detailed ruling is incredibly significant. The court recognized that: “When a terminally ill patient or her surrogate decision maker (especially a parent of a minor patient with her own individual liberty interest) actively opposes the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, the right to life is clearly implicated.”
Highlights of the court’s decision are below:
1. The court held that hospital ethics committees, when operating under the Section 166.046 statute, are considered state actors, not private individuals or entities.
2. Cook Children’s Medical Center previously argued that while state action is required for a physician to continue providing care to an ill child over the objections of the parents, state action should not be required if the same physician wants to remove such care. Thankfully, the court rejected such a ridiculous assertion.
3. “…Section 166.046(e) unquestionably trumps the patient’s or surrogate decision maker’s decision to continue living for whatever additional amount of time she may have before the natural disease process overcomes the life-sustaining treatment,” the court wrote.
4. The court held that the committee review process violates due process of the patient. The ethics committee chairwoman testified during a December hearing that, “Mother did not have legal counsel or, necessarily, the right to legal counsel before the committee, and Mother was not guaranteed the opportunity to present any medical opinion contrary to that of the attending physician or the CICU team.” The chair agreed that the committee was the hospital’s “decision-making body,” though the committee followed no particular evidentiary standards in making the decision; instead, the committee simply “consider[ed]” what the attending physician and family had to say and made the decision.
You can access the entire opinion here.
Despite this withering rebuke of the horrible 10-Day Rule, other hospitals across the state continue to threaten families with the 10-Day Rule. There is still much to be done to ensure that Texas patients are protected throughout the entire state, but the Fort Worth court’s decision is a monumental win for the cause of Life and liberty.
Our judicial advocacy is just getting started. You can help cover the legal fees for families like Trinity and Tinslee Lewis and stop the 10-Day Rule! Donate to Texas Right to Life’s Family Assistance Fund.